While SpiceJet is generally on my bottom tier of carrier preferences, sometimes, life throws you a curveball, and you end up flying them anyways. Throughout 2021 and 2022, we have heard a lot about the financial troubles of SpiceJet and also about the poor shape in which their aircraft are usually maintained. The airline had their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft grounded for a long time, even after the DGCA signed off on ungrounding the aircraft type in India.
I flew SpiceJet all of once during 2022, and while there were no plans to fly them so soon again, I had to travel urgently, and my options were IndiGo and SpiceJet. While I would have usually picked IndiGo, it is fog season in Delhi, and SpiceJet was a full hour before IndiGo. So, since I needed to get where I was going soonest, I took the bet on SpiceJet. I was hoping, even with a delay, SpiceJet would take off earlier and arrive earlier than IndiGo.
There were two reasons to pick SpiceJet, and it was not a totally bad call. First, the time which I already explained above. Second, it was a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. While their older aircraft are in pretty bad shape, I was hoping the 737 MAX aircraft would be better. Bonus, the flight was from Delhi Airport Terminal 3, while IndiGo was Terminal 2, which is more like a bus shelter.
Checking into SpiceJet at Delhi Terminal 3
I checked into my flight and arrived in good time at the airport. Using DigiYatra, I entered the airport pretty quickly. I headed to the SpiceJet counter. Although I had no bags to check in, I wanted to collect a physical boarding pass. The regular counters were being used for bag drop and did not have very long queues.
However, I am a SpiceJet Silver tier member and was flying on SpiceMax, so I was entitled to a priority check-in. The counter was empty.
It took the folks at the counter under a minute to print my boarding pass. However, it took them a couple of minutes to find stickers which indicated I was a SpiceMAX customer and apply them to the boarding pass. I am not sure how this sticker helps, but I guess there is some identification for the crew on board to know if a passenger is legit paid for SpiceMAX or has just taken one of those seats without authorisation.
Then, I headed back into the security queue with DigiYatra to clear quickly and arrive on the other end in no time. As soon as I arrived on the other end, I got a text message from SpiceJet stating that my flight was delayed by 50 minutes. Murphy’s Law, I thought, and still, I was going to be arriving about the same time as IndiGo. I headed for the Reopened Lounge at T3.
Between the time I arrived at the airport and the flight landed at Delhi T3, the gate changed a couple of times, from 55 to 60 to 58. Additionally, this specific flight was not showing up on the FIDS that shows flight status across the airport. Fortunately, I had it on my App In The Air, and I used to get an update directly on the phone every time there was a change.
As the plane arrived at Delhi T3 from its last flight, I started my trek towards the gate. The gates are some of the farthest at Delhi T3 Domestic, so I had to start early.
At the gate, I spotted VT-MXI, which would be used to operate my flight. The radome on top reminded me of SpiceJet’s plans to offer inflight internet once upon a time.
While we had the plane at the gate, there were no signs of any staff from SpiceJet for a long time.
As it turned out, there was a good reason for that. A hassled SpiceJet Gate Agent came around in a bit, trying to patch up a call between their office and the guys at the fuel company because they did not send a refuelling truck (bowsers, as they are called) to tank up. And this guy wouldn’t start boarding the flight till he knew they had fuel. Talk about the things lingering at the back of the head of an airline employee of a stressed-out airline.
Eventually, since the posted flight delay was only about 50 minutes, and we were already at the 45-minute marker still standing at the gate, people started heckling the gate agent, who began to board the flight then. I wonder if this is the rule in other airlines since refuelling is usually done between boarding starting for the flight and the flight closing doors for departure (you might have heard the instruction not to belt up since the aircraft is refuelling). So, it was surprising, to say the least, that the agent held up the flight for the lack of a fuel truck. He could have instead boarded us and then had the plane fuel up after.
While I would have ideally been called in first (status grants You 1st complimentary, and then there was also Spice MAX), but the agent did not do any of that and just started boarding whosoever was closest to him (after the wheelchairs boarded). So, if you are buying priority handling on SpiceJet, don’t.
Delhi (DEL) – Gorakhpur (GOP)
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Departure: 2:20 PM
Duration: 1 Hour 38 minutes
Arrival: 3:58 PM
Aircraft Type: Boeing 737-8
Seat: 16A (SpiceMAX)
Meal Service: Buy on Board
The aircraft was in good shape for SpiceJet standards. Also, these aircraft were delivered brand new, factory fresh to SpiceJet. While SpiceJet has 13 of these in their fleet, their order was much bigger. Although post the ungrounding of the aircraft by various authorities, they have not inducted any new aircraft in their fleet despite the Chairman of the airline assuring otherwise. Twelve of the 13 aircraft are currently being operated, with the thirteenth being parked in Mumbai for a long time.
All the seats were faux leather, and the SpiceMAX seats also had a headrest.
There was enough legroom in the emergency exit seats, making it worth the extra.
I parked myself in my seat to realise that SpiceJet did not do it right after all. SpiceJet has installed Recaro’s seat on this aircraft (also found on many Akasa and Air India narrow bodies). However, SpiceJet decided against putting a small pocket in the seatback, where you could put your small personal effects during the flight.
This aircraft type flies a lot for SpiceJet’s international operations, so I feel for the folks who turn up for a flight and then find no space to keep their books, glasses, passport, phone or anything else people tend to drop in the small pocket. The passenger next to me had two phones and a water bottle and had to hold them in her hand for almost two hours we were on board the plane since there was no pocket.
The aircraft was pretty hot, even though it was on the ground for over an hour, and we were in peak Delhi winters. Thank goodness for the air vents.
The crew walked around pre-departure with trays full of drinking water.
The overhead bins above the SpiceMax seats were reserved for SpiceMAX customers. However, that was not a note anyone on board cared for eventually.
As the doors closed, we made a quick departure, given we were already 1.2 hours late now and were edging on our arrival time in Gorakhpur while we pushed back. Delhi Airport had some nice views to offer on this day after take off.
This was a short flight, so the crew sprung into action as soon as the aircraft climbed out and rolled out the trolley. SpiceJet has followed the rest of the crowd in devaluing its proposition to a sandwich and drink combo. While their website stated that a hot meal would be available for flights more than 76 minutes, there were only sandwiches made available as options during the booking flow.
While I’ve had a hot meal in the same sector before, all I got today was a Sandwich and a beverage. There were no soft drinks on offer, just Mango Juice, which must be a tetra pack offering. However, there was an option to get a pre-mix tea or coffee, and that is what I went with.
The sandwich was pretty dry but edible. Hate to say it, but the pre-mix cappuccino was the star of the afternoon.
Service was first offered to those who had pre-booked and then to other passengers. The usual options of tinned dry snacks and some dehydrated food were available for that buying on board (such as noodles and cookies).
Here is the insert in their magazine for those interested in what SpiceJet might offer on some of their longer flights. I had the same Masala Omelette on the same route a year ago.
SpiceJet also sent a text message asking me to try their SpiceScreen IFE service. While I could attach my phone to their inflight streaming server, I could never get it to work for me, though.
The crew was quick and efficient, although the fellow passengers were less. Here is how someone at the front closed up the overhead bin.
And this is how someone left their bags in one of the overhead bins next to me.
As we arrived at our destination, IndiGo beat us to the clock, and we waited for IndiGo to depart back to Delhi (close doors and pushback) before we could head to the same bay they had occupied. Fortunately, I had no check-in bags. Otherwise, waiting for them to arrive and be collected would have been another task. Gorakhpur is a small airport, a civil enclave at an Air Force base, and has a small terminal building with only one conveyer belt and can take one turboprop and one narrow-body jet at a time.
While my flight with SpiceJet on their 737-8 was uneventful, the experience had me wondering if I would do it again. The MAX passenger experience is nice, but small things, such as missing pockets and so on, cause concern. On a longer route, they are a definite no-go for me, but on this day, there was a 50% chance I’d go with them, and that 50% probability worked out in their favour. At least, I could wipe out my SpiceJet SpiceClub account of about 1500 points in the process, though.
Have you flown a SpiceJet MAX aircraft recently? What has been your experience with them?
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